Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kitchen Cabinets

Cabinet before it has been assaulted by Annaliese and Anderson.

I realize that I haven't published anything about the flood or our house etc. But, I figure that most people that are reading this blog know about all of that anyway. I do plan on writing about it later, but right now, it's not high on the list of things I am eager to do. Given all of that, I will keep this short. We have now decided to tear down the house and start over. Either way, we would have needed new kitchen cabinets. We found a great site that had cabinets that we both liked. We ordered two of them so we could check out the quality, assembly etc. They are gorgeous, I mean, at least I really love them. What never occurred to me though, is to try them out on the kids. Because wouldn't you want to buy cabinets that could fit two toddlers comfortably on the inside?

I promise (especially to all my DHS friends reading this) I didn't make them go in there! A couple nights ago while we were visiting with friends and were mildly distracted, Annaliese and Anderson decided to use the opportunity to find the perfect hiding place. Eventually we heard this giggling coming from inside the cabinet and there they are. They thought it was terribly funny and I have to say we did too. It was even funnier when they figured out how to push out the drawer so they could pop out the top! Parenting tip - if you have to get new cabinets, make sure your kids like them too. Everyone's happy!

Anna's Big Day!

Annaliese started preschool last week. She has been excited about this event for quite some time. She was particularly upset when Jackson and Hailey started a few weeks ago. But, we assured her that her day would come soon. And finally, it did! She attends on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and she loves it.

So excited for her first day!
I think Hailey was almost as excited as Annaliese.

At the front door to the preschool. Anderson wasn't quite as happy when we left without her. He kept saying, "Anna?" And I have been truly amazed at how calm he is when it's just him. All of us went to Panera the first morning and he sat there all nice and quiet. I think I can handle this new Anderson, even if it is only for two and a half hours.

Anderson literally tackled Annaliese when he saw her in the hallway! Annaliese with the assistant Deb Aalfs.
I am thrilled that she is in the first preschool class for Orchard Hill Church. OHC has been planning this preschool for a long time and it has been a dream come true for the staff, members and friends of Orchard Hill. I can remember asking about a preschool when we first started attending seven years ago. And our patience has been rewarded! I am so excited to see this blossom and grow, and especially for all the little ones that are now preschoolers at Orchard Hill.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New School Year

Last week began a new school year for the kids, well two of them anyway. School started on Wednesday, August 20th. Hailey started Second Grade and Jackson started Kindergarten. The week actually began with an open house on Monday where they brought their school supplies and met their teachers. There was a little picnic afterwards and then we were off to Annaliese's parent meeting at her preschool. Annaliese doesn't start preschool until September 9th, so we will add her big day later.

Open House Night - Jackson and Mrs. Steil, doesn't he look thrilled? Hailey and Mrs. Larson, she really does look excited!
So back to last Wednesday... The morning actually started off pretty well. We had set out clothes the night before and tried to ready ourselves as much as possible. I don't think it's very easy to get out of the house to begin with and especially now that we have a deadline! We even got the classic backpack shots in the yard before we left.

Hailey picks her own outfits, does her own hair and even poses for pictures. I was just happy to get a picture of Jackson smiling. I do think he is a little proud to be a big boy now, even though he won't admit it.

Jackson and Brad. And the girls, excited to be together again! Hailey, Jenae and Laetyn.
A lot of people have asked how the kids like school, what does Jack think, how is it only having two at home now, etc. Well for starters, anyone that knows Jack, knows that he doesn't really have an opinion either way. He is fine with going and he is fine with staying home. Although he is rather irritated that he doesn't get to play on the playground before school starts. (Side note: Michelle likes to think that Jackson has issues and he is ornery on his own, but I think he gets that easy irritation trait from her, I'm just sayin')

And as far as "just having two at home" well, yes, it's "just two" but it's still TWO! Ask me when they are all in school... Really though, it's nice. Annaliese and Anderson get along very well. They play house together and she can get him to do just about anything. She calls him "Buddy". So I hear her saying all the time, "Come on Buddy, you be the dog, I'll be the mom..." Or "Come on Buddy, you can do it, just go down one step at a time." (trying to get him to come downstairs) It's very sweet and even though I still have two at home, I love that they get along so well and are pretty low maintenance, at least so far.
I had the first intro conference with their teachers last night. Of course, not much to report, the teachers just like to know if there is anything we want them to know specifically. And just as I figured, Mrs. Steil - Jack's teacher, has already seen 'the look'. The disgusted look he gets on his face whenever he thinks that someone has wronged him or bumped into him the wrong way. Most of us have seen the look and now, Doreen has too. I pray for her grace this year, that she would have patience and find that special quality in Jackson that makes him lovable, at least when he wants to be.

A new school year also means I am reminded that I still need to finish my thesis. I know, I don't have much time to get it done now. Where have all the years gone? Oh wait, I know, I have been having kids left and right! Well, now that I am DONE with that part, I can hopefully get back on pace. Now don't hold me to it, but really, I am hoping that I can make some progress in that area. So, here's to the new school year. I am sure that we will all learn more than we thought we would. (BTW, I figured out that for just one year, I will have all the kids in one school, can you believe it?)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Germany III

Day 7 (Friday) - Our final day in Munich, we drove to RothenbUrg. Well, we first drove to RothenbErg. Yes, there is a difference, about a 90 minute difference! Totally my fault since I was the one that gave Joanne the city to go to. I should have checked, but who would have thought that there are four different cities with an "e" and where we actually wanted to go was with a "U". At any rate, after we arrived in Rothenburg, the weather was drizzling rain and kind of cold. We found a small restaurant to eat and then started to look for the stores that we remembered from the last time we were there about twenty years ago. Funny how your mind recalls different details from reality. We never did find the exact store we were looking for, but it was neat to walk around and look at all the Christmas stores.

There were several large Nutcrackers that just begged to have their pictures taken next to.

A large building in the center, not sure what the building was for, but I liked the architecture of it. The Clock Tower to the right was a sight to see. People gather in the square every hour to see the windows open and these figurines come out and do a little dance and movements.
One of the stores we came across had Annaliese's name, only one letter off, so I had to take a picture. No idea what "Friese" means, but I thought Anna would like to see it.
Rothenburg is knows for it's Christmas stores and Kris Kringle market in the winter. This particular store was very extravagant in it's displays. These are a couple pictures of what we saw when we first came in. All of the stuffed animals are "Steif" and most of them are animated and move around. After we took a couple shots, we saw the signs that said "No Pictures" Very cool though to get these. I think Donna took quite a few more illegal shots and I will try to get those on here too.
Finding the perfect gift for four kids can be a little difficult. But for some reason, this time Jackson was by far the easiest. I had seen several swords at different shops and said there is no way I am going to buy him a sword. He is so active and aggressive, giving him a weapon doesn't make much sense. BUT... when we came to this shop and the owner was there engraving all these wood signs and I saw the sword, with a wooden sheathe, well... I had to! It wasn't something I could pass up. He engraved it with "Sir Jackson" and yes, Jack loves it! So far, I am glad I bought it, but I am sure it won't be long before he takes out an eye, a lamp, you get the picture!
We drove back to Munich and went straight to the Hofbrauhaus, a world famous beer hall. By the time we got there, it was almost 9:30 but we were starving so we decided to eat there as well. The place was packed with people. All the tables were full, it was kind of chaos. I had heard that you just have to find your own place to sit, along with other people that you don't know. So, you need to be fairly aggressive. Not a problem for me, but for my mom, she starts freaking out about we weren't paying attention and she could have had a seat but she couldn't find us, etc. We finally found a place to sit and got our drinks. Mom ordered a white wine and cola, a drink she had when she was in Germany before, supposedly a German drink, but the waiter couldn't believe she wanted the two together in the same glass. Doesn't sound that great to me, but she did drink it all so I have to give props for that one. I preferred the beer, of course!
Classic picture of mom having a hot flash. Someone should have warned Michelle and I that we were travelling with two women in the middle of menopause, seriously!

Sometimes, Michelle and I get tired of waiting to have our picture taken, so we just do it ourselves. It never turns out that great, but we have fun doing it!
And somehow they always manage to catch us midsentence before we are ready for the picture. We both look pretty rough, but no one there cared and we didn't either.

Day 8 (Saturday) - Our last day to do any shopping and we still had to leave Munich, head to Heidelberg, stop to see Kimber and then make our way to Frankfurt. Nothing like waiting till the last minute! We did get to see my friend Kimber Van Essen. Her and her family moved to Germany with Deere last year. Even though I was able to see her in Iowa just a few weeks ago, it was really nice to see her again so soon. We got a quick pic together before we left, as she says, "proof" that I was there!
Heading over to Heidelberg, just a few minutes away, we looked for a parking garage (P12) that Jeremy (Kimber's husband) forgot to mention you had to go up a steep hill to get into. This was about the last straw for me and listening to back seat drivers. They were all screaming at me that I was doing the wrong thing and I had to wait in line to get in but we were on a VERY steep hill and I am driving stick, so trying to keep it going up and not sliding back into the cars behind me was very frustrating. Needless to say, when it was over and we were parked, no one was happy. Still a sore subject...

The entire time we were in Germany, we saw this phenomenon of what Michelle and I called the "MANPRI" or capri's for men. We were astounded by the proliference of this fashion concept. We figured Heidelberg would be the last chance we would have to document this, and so here is a compilation of some of the specimen's we observed...

The first one of the guy in the orange is my favorite. He doesn't even match and it was so essential Manpri! Of course, it didn't matter if you were young or old, married or single, denim or chino... We are pretty sure that the MANPRI will be taking the U.S. by storm here shortly, so beware!!!

We ended up back where we started in Frankfurt. I had been wanting to go out and get dressed up and this was the last chance. We went to an upscale Italian restaurant for dinner. This was the one time that mom decided to not take a picture of our meals. We figured that our dinner for the four of us was 125 Euro or about $180. We walked down to the Rhine River and caught a few silly pictures on the way.

Rhine River

Donna and Mom before we left the hotel. Michelle and I did their hair and makeup. Don't they look beautiful?!

Michelle and I before we were ready for the picture to be taken. We couldn't stop laughing. I think just before that we were making fun of mom or something?

Still having fun. This one had something to do with the light below my dress. And we only had two glasses of wine and maybe finished everyone else's?

Day 9 (Sunday) - I don't have any pictures that capture the disaster that was Sunday morning but it essentially ended up the way it began with my mom freaking out that we would miss our plane and we only had a "few minutes" to get on the plane or we would lose our seats. While this was a little far from the truth, we were in fact, almost the last persons to board the plane. I didn't get Starbucks, so I was cranky and they weren't very nice at the ticketing counter. Getting back into Detroit nine hours later, we still didn't have much time to catch our connecting flight, especially after going through immigration, customs, rechecking our luggage and making our way to our gate. By the end of the day, mom and I had been up and travelled for 23 hours. I was exhausted and could barely stay awake to say hi to Brad, Hailey and Jackson. But come Monday, the whole circus that is my life started again and so sleep will have to wait...

Final Analysis - It was a wonderful experience and I would do it over again in a heartbeat, back seat drivers and all. In fact, how does Italy 2010 sound???

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Germany II

Day 3 (Monday) - We woke to find that Elizabeth had prepared a full German breakfast for us. It was quite the spread and delicious. There is just something that can't be beat about eating Brotchen for breakfast! We did some touring of Leipzig, headed back to Elizabeth's for lunch, again a very generous meal, and then did a little touring of Dolzig. Elizabeth showed us the church and cemetary. Mom got some great photos of family grave sites for her geneology stuff. After dropping Elizabeth off again, we headed back to Leipzig and toured the Hauptbahnhof, largest train depot in Europe and then walked around the city center.

This is Elizabeth's house from the front. Dolzig is a very small, quaint town, exactly what you would expect. I have video of the inside, but haven't figured out how to add that yet.

Couple shots of the train station. It was huge! Lots of stores and places to eat, much like a mall, just that it has a train station attached!

Michelle and mom looking for money to go to the bathroom. The sign says that to use a urinal, it's only 70 cents, but if you want to use the toilet, it's 1.10 Euro. Totally not fair and sexist - but what do you do, when you got to go, you got to go!

Anyone that knows me, knows I love Starbucks. I was disappointed that the sign only said coming soon. But I had to show my affection anyway. Fear not, I did find Starbucks in Munich!

Pictures from the inside of the church that we saw in Leipzig.

Getting back that night to Elizabeth's we had yet another communication break down as she was not at home at the time that we thought we were to meet. We had thought we would pick her up at 6:00 to go to dinner, but she wasn't there and the house was locked. So, we thought she might be at a restaurant waiting for us. A horrifying thought that your hostess is sitting somewhere, who knows where, waiting for her crazy American guests to come and meet her! We drove ALL over trying to figure it out, drove back to Dolzig and by the second time we returned to her house, she was there. By then it was 7:00, we were starving and ready to go to dinner, but of course, she had prepared a meal for us. We still don't know where she was or how we got mixed up, but I guess that's all irrelevant, we just smiled and nodded in agreement when she tried to ask us how we were doing.
Day 4 (Tuesday) - We left Elizabeth's that morning and headed to Munich. This was the only day that we had inclement weather to that point. It rained pretty much the whole drive there. It was still a beautiful drive, despite the rain. We stopped along the way and had a small meal at Burger King of all places! They actually have quite a few Burger King's and McDonald's here, even Pizza Hut, but so far we have only had BK. After getting settled in our hotel, we walked down by the underground tunnel and ate at a neat German restaurant. Michelle had the full interest of the italian guys sitting next to us. I told her she could come to Germany and go home with an Italian husband...

Day 5 (Wednesday) - We drove down to Austria and toured Eagle's Nest, Hitler's last retreat. The drive in the bus up to the top was amazing. We had lunch at the top and walked around for a while before returning on the bus to the bottom. It feels kind of wierd to be touring that place given the history behind it, but it was still an interesting place to go.
View from the top.

Mom and then a group shot at the top of the mountain.

Michelle and I at the top. One problem we have with both Donna and Mom is that they take pictures before we are ready. This is a prime example of that!

Me on the way down to the bus. Mom and I actually raced a little going down, but I won that one. I kept telling her that if she fell, I wouldn't be able to pick her up, and she needed to slow down. But she wouldn't! I am amazed she didn't break her ankle.

After leaving Eagle's Nest, we went to another part of Salzburg and did the Salt Mine tour. This was a lot of fun and we got some fun pictures of us dressed up like Salt Mine workers. By the time we were done, it was after 8:00 and we were hungry again, so we headed into Salzburg proper to find something to eat. After spending ages trying to find a place to park, we walked a short distance to an outdoor courtyard that had several restaurants combined. It seems at some point like that is all we are doing is eating! (Drinking some too...) Heading back to the hotel was probably our longest day as it was after 11pm before we returned.

We have been eating a lot of ice cream. But who wouldn't when it is served like this?!!

I know, we look great don't we? Getting ready to go into the salt mine.

Day 6 (Thursday) - We drove south again to the Neuenschwanstein castle. I had been there before, but it has been about twenty years, so it was pretty cool to experience it again. We got rained on while waiting for our turn to go into the castle. Of course, the view from the castle and the whole area surrounding it is stunning. It's very easy to see why they call it the Fairy Tale Castle. The entire castle is breathtaking inside. I didn't remember as much as I thought I did, so it was kind of like seeing it for the first time. When we got out of the tour, it had pretty much slowed to a drizzle so we started the walk down the hill. Donna and I decided to take a short cut, which was fine, but it was extremely steep. It wasn't until we got out of the car after returning to the hotel that Michelle and I about fell over because our legs were so sore. Seriously, we could hardly walk!!!
Me at the bottom waiting to go up to the castle. Behind me is the other castle that we didn't tour, Hohenschwangau.

Me at the top, going over Mary's Bridge. Neuenschwanstein is in the back. We still had to walk another five minutes or so to get there.

Castle shots from the top and from Mary's Bridge.
Donna wasn't feeling well either so she opted to stay in the hotel while we went for dinner. We ate at "Block House" It is a steak place founded by Eugen Block. Who knew?!!! I thought Brad would be proud, Michelle and I shared a ribeye that was delicious. And for the first time, we had a salad and baked potato. Michelle even had New York Cheesecake. She remarked that it is the best meal she has had since she has been here. Imagine that, and especially at a place with my namesake!